Three Santos for the Season

Santos, literally “saints” in Spanish, represent a centuries-old tradition of religious devotion practiced by Latino artisans. Here are three, handcarved and painted by Puerto Rican native, Carlos Santiago Arroyo of Amherst. You can see them by visiting the “Sacred Expressions” room of the exhibition, Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington.

Candy Canes Still Made by Hand and Muscle

Today’s Boston Globe has a great article and video about a Lawrence, Massachusetts candy making institution — Priscilla Candies — and the seasonal specialty of making 3 foot-long candy canes. Seems like it’s time to pay a visit and interview the oldtimers who still know how to pull candy by hand. It is also interesting to learn about the Christian symbolism of the red and white striped candy cane.

Sign Maker to Give Artist Demo

We first wrote about Nicholas Lonborg back in September, but it’s worth repeating, since he will be doing an artist demonstration a few days after Christmas at the National Heritage Museum. Lonborg has mastered the art of hand carved signs featuring V-cut letters and the application of gold leaf. He specializes in highly finished quarterboards, like the one he is working on here. Once associated with ships, quarterboards now mark personal property, especially on the seafaring island of Nantucket and other coastal communities.”

Come watch Lonborg work, ask questions, and hear him talk about his craft on Sunday, December 28th from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Nicholas Lonborg outlining in black. Photo by Maggie Holtzberg

Concert footage of “Keepers of Tradition” now on You Tube

Film footage from the October 4 concert at the National Heritage Museum is now posted on MCC’s very own channel on You Tube. You can watch a Scottish bagpiper, Puerto Rican family band, Cambodian dance troupe, Fado singer, auctioneer, and Franco-American fiddle and stepdance. Thanks to Mathew Ferrel for filming and editing the segments. We hope to add footage from our June 7 concert in the near future.

Fiddle tune that truly soars

For those who attended our October 4 concert at the National Heritage Museum, a highlight of the evening was Donna H├ębert’s rendering of “The Raven’s Wing” on fiddle. The story behind this composition of Donna’s is as moving as the soaring, sorrowful melody. To hear more about it, go to Donna’s fiddleblog post.

“Keepers of Tradition” exhibition extended through June 7, 2009

The National Heritage Museum, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), is pleased to announce it is extending “Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts” through June 7, 2009. ” The exhibition has been hugely popular with visitors,” said Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, “and when the opportunity to extend the show presented itself, we didn’t hesitate. We are very grateful to the artists for allowing us to display these treasures a bit longer.”

“Keepers of Tradition” features more than 100 works by 70 Massachusetts artists who preserve and revitalize deeply rooted traditions. Reflecting the populace of Massachusetts, their art takes many expressive forms-from Native American basketry to Yankee wooden boats, Armenian lace, Chinese seals, Puerto Rican santos, and Irish music and dance. Passed down from person to person within both long-settled and new immigrant communities, traditional art involves the shaping of deeply held cultural values into meaningful artistic forms. These keepers of tradition are recognized in their communities as outstanding practitioners of craft, music, dance, and sacred arts. Yet much of this work is hidden to the public at large, remaining essentially unknown beyond the local community in which it flourishes.

More information about the exhibition, including an audio tour, can be found at the Museum’s web site. The official MCC web site for the show can be found at

Expressing the Shape of a Boat

A nice crowd gathered recently to watch and hear Harold A. Burnham talk about the tradition of using half hull models as design tools from Harold A. Burnham at the National Heritage Museum. He explained the process of sketching the model out on a block of wood, which is made of lifts. These lifts come apart and represent sections of the hull. “The shape of the model is the shape of the boat.”

Once chiseled and sanded to perfection, the lifts are taken apart and used to express a three-dimensional shape on a two-dimensional piece of paper. These lines are eventually scaled up to size on the moulding loft floor. Harold notes, “If you are an accomplished boat designer or have the experience studying these lines, you can read the lines plan and know what the lines are saying.” (Sort of like a composer reading a score and hearing the piece of music in her head.) He goes on to say, “But the alternative is to just hold up a block of wood and say, “This is what it looks like.”

“What we’ve developed here is a series of points for the widths at the correct height. Then by connecting the dots, in a fair line, you can see the shape of the model. If you scale that up full scale, that shape is what you use to make the moulds to build the frames for the boat. Basically, we do what I just did when we’re lofting the boat, we do that full scale on what they call a mould loft floor. That’s how you use the half model.”

Photos by Maggie Holtzberg